The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is a leading consumer advocacy organization in the USA, which was founded in 1971. One of the CSPI’s missions is “to provide consumers with current, useful information about their health and well-being.”
Over the years, the CSPI has vigorously campaigned against GMO labeling, full-fat dairy, and saturated fats. Until now, many people believe margarine is a healthier food than butter due to the successful CSPI campaign against saturated fats. Many people still believe skim milk is a healthier food than raw milk, thanks to a massive campaign against full-fat dairy by the CSPI.
The CSPI is now fighting natural remedies and natural supplements that help to prevent current diseases. In 2020, they brought allegations against Dr. Mercola’s dietary supplements, who is a highly respected natural health doctor.
So, does the CSPI really promote the interest of public health? Or does it have its agenda aligned with big businesses looking to make a profit?
How The CSPI Works To Enforce Its Mandates
According to Influence Watch, a fact-based website on public policy matter, “CSPI uses legal actions, administrative appeals, legislative lobbying, and public pressure campaigns to seek mandatory changes that address its consumer regulation agenda.”
Who Funds The CSPI?
The CSPI says its funding comes “from foundations and individual donors who support policies that protect the environment and public health.” In fact, the CSPI receives money from organizations that are driven by the desire for making money and less concerned about public health.
One such noticeable situation is where the American Heart Association (AHA) heavily funds the CSPI, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy. For over six decades, the AHA has endorsed foods that cause heart problems and issued advisories known to cause today’s health problems. The AHA is driven by profit.
The AHA is funded by pharmaceutical companies such as Pfitzer and Novartis, makers of statin drugs. One in four Americans takes statin drugs to lower their cholesterol level to prevent heart attacks and strokes. The AHA blames saturated fat as the cause of high cholesterol, stating high cholesterol causes heart disease. As a result, the medical industry strongly promoted statin drugs to lower cholesterol, making Lipitor. Meanwhile, studies continue to disprove what the AHA wants everyone to believe, which is that saturated fats are dangerous to heart health.
CSPI Partnership With Pro-GMO Group
It comes as no surprise that the CSPI partners with the Cornell Alliance for Science (CAS), one of the most pro-GMO groups in the U.S. This is evident as Greg Jaffe, head of the CSPI’s biotechnology project, is also the director of legal affairs for the Cornell Alliance for Science.
It is regrettable that their standards have sunk so low that one of their staff, Greg Jaffe, now serves as the associate director of legal affairs for the Cornell Alliance for Science, a public relations shop that parrots agrochemical industry propaganda, partners with industry front groups, and works closely with many of the industry’s leading messengers.
The U.S. Right to Know, a truth and transparency organization in the American food system, states in its report, titled “Cornell Alliance for Science is a PR Campaign for the Agrichemical Industry”, that CAS trains “science allies” to promote and defend GMOs and agrichemicals around the world. Genetically engineered crops are associated with the increased use of a chemical called glyphosate, which has adverse effects on the environment and our health.
Clearly, the CSPI serves the interest of big companies and is less concerned about public health. For example, when the CSPI pushed hard against the use of saturated fat, the big beneficiary was the soy industry. As a result of the CSPI’s campaign, 80 percent of all partially hydrogenated oil used in processed foods in the U.S. is made from soy, as well as 70 percent of all liquid oil. Keep in mind, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, genetically modified seeds are used to plant 90 percent of all soy in the U.S.
History Of CSPI On Cooking Fat And How They’ve Been Wrong
The CSPI’s advice on fat is also false. In the 1980s, the CSPI vigorously campaigned for trans fats as an alternative to healthy saturated fats. Trans fats are a type of dietary fat made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, mainly soybean oil. Partial hydrogenation is a process of making liquid vegetable oil solid, stable, and cheap to produce.
In 1984, the CSPI started a campaign known as “Saturated Fat Attack” to persuade the public and food corporations to shift from using saturated fats to trans fats. By 1986, CSPI claimed some success at convincing companies to stop using saturated fat.
In 1986, the CSPI states in its “The Fast-Food Guide” that “most restaurants use vegetable oils … These oils, however, still contain much less cholesterol-raising saturated fat than beef fat, palm oil, or coconut oil. In terms of heart disease, they’re not a bad bargain.” The guide strongly criticized restaurants that did not make the switch and praised restaurants that switched to vegetable shortening.
The 1987 article in a CSPI Nutrition newsletter stated that “hydrogenated oils don’t pose a dire threat to health.” The development of CSPI’s campaign on trans fats is well elaborated in David Schleifer’s article, “The Perfect Solution: How Trans Fats Became the Healthy Replacement for Saturated Fats.”
The strong CSPI campaign against saturated fats led food companies and restaurants to replace beef fat and tropical oils (that is, palm and coconut oils) with unhealthy partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Despite the campaign, studies indicate that trans fats significantly increased the risk of heart disease, inflammation, and may damage the interior surface of blood vessels.
Does The CSPI Accept The Blame On Trans Fats?
In the 1990s, CSPI reversed their stance on artificial hydrogenated trans fats. But it was too late, many lives have been lost due to heart problems during that period. CSPI doesn’t admit their mistake in campaigning for trans fats; instead, they place the blame on major fast-food chains. This shift of blame is explained by Mary Enig in “The Tragic Legacy of Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)” article.
Instead of accepting the blame, CSPI pleaded ‘not guilty,’ claiming that the fault lay with the major fast-food chains–including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken because they ‘falsely claim to use 100% vegetable oil when they actually use hydrogenated shortening.
CSPI Stance On GMO Foods
For over two decades now, the CSPI has been misleading the public about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food whose genetic material has been changed through genetic engineering (GE) methods. The CSPI believes GMO crops are safe for humans and the environment. Gregory Jaffe, CSPI biotechnology director, in an interview by FoodNavigator-USA, says “There is no reliable evidence that ingredients made from current GE crops pose any health risk whatsoever.”
Currently, 85 percent of U.S. corn, 91 percent of soybeans, and 88 percent of cotton are genetically modified. It is also estimated that at least 80 percent of processed foods now contain genetically engineered components.
Dangers Of GMO On Health And Environment
GMOs pose major threats to our health and the environment. For example, a commonly planted GMO corn known as Bt corn is provided with a soil bacteria gene, which produces a pesticide known as Bt toxin. A study shows that Bt toxin causes damage to human cells causing a lot of health problems.
Another study links glyphosate to most of the diseases and conditions associated with the Western diet. Glyphosate is an active ingredient in a popular herbicide called Roundup. Biotech companies produce GE seeds that are resistant to glyphosate. Therefore, farmers apply Roundup on GMO crops in large quantities. Glyphosate residues are found in the main foods of the Western diet.
One of the adverse effects on the environment is the massive loss of bees around the world. In the U.S., 50 to 90 percent of the bee population has been lost. This is largely blamed on insecticides commonly used on GE crops. Bees are important in agriculture because of their role in the pollination of plants.
The CSPI Campaign Against GMO Labeling
The CSPI also has been fighting against GMO labeling, arguing that labeling of foods is misleading to the public. Gregory Jaffe notes that:
At CSPI we are very concerned about transparency and the fact that foods are made with GM crops certainly shouldn’t be hidden from consumers, but we’re also concerned about misleading labeling. You could argue for example that non-GMO label claims are misleading since they falsely imply that food made without GE ingredients is safer or superior in some other way.
In 2001, the CSPI asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take enforcement action against food manufacturers whose product labels deceive consumers with false or misleading claims about the absence of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.
The idea behind GMO labeling is to help consumers make the right decision by differentiating natural food products from laboratory-made foods.
CSPI’s Campaign Against Full-Fat Dairy
The CSPI also has been campaigning against the consumption of full-fat dairy. The CSPI designed a “1 percent or Less” campaign which encourages children over two years old to take milk with a fat content of one percent or less rather than whole or two percent milk. Whole and two percent milk are the primary sources of saturated fat among children’s diets and form an important ingredient in the diets of adults. The motive behind this campaign is to reduce the consumption of saturated fat.
One such campaign in Wheeling, West Virginia used mass media included extensive paid advertising and public relations to encourage all adults and children over the age of two to shift from consumption of high-fat milk to skim milk (also called free-fat or nonfat milk).
The campaign was successful at increasing the sale of skim milk from 29 percent of overall milk sales before the campaign to 46 percent of sales afterward. A survey showed that 34.1 percent of high-fat-milk drinkers admitted switching to low-fat milk. Just like the trans fat campaign, the CSPI misled the public on the consumption of low-fat and non-fat milk products.
However, a new study confirms that full-fat dairy is not linked to an increase in cardiovascular disease and mortality. The study was well-designed as it was carried out over nine years, involving participants from 21 countries in five continents.
The study showed that people who ate three servings of dairy per day had an overall lower risk of death during the study period than people who ate no dairy. They also had a lower risk of stroke and death from heart disease.
Based on the findings, the lead researcher Mahshid Dehghan concludes that “up to three servings of dairy per day lowers the risk of death and cardiovascular disease regardless of fat.”
Examples That Show The CSPI Has Been Wrong About Full-Fat Dairy
To show how the CSPI has been giving wrong full-fat dairy advice, let’s take a look at some interesting examples.
The Swiss are known for their rich full-fat dairy products, including lots of cheese, yet they display lower heart disease rates than Americans.
The natives of the Caucasus Mountains in Eastern Europe mostly live to over 100 years old. They drink full-fat dairy almost daily throughout their lives. Yet they continue to show lower heart problems and mortality rates.
We also have the Maasai and Samburu communities from East Africa, who eat a diet rich in full-fat dairy and yet display strong health with a lack of heart diseases.
Can You Continue Trusting CSPI?
For a decade, the CSPI ran a strong campaign promoting trans fats, making food corporations and people switch from healthy saturated fats to heart-disaster fats. As a result, many people lost their lives due to heart disease. The CSPI has partnered with the Cornell Alliance for Science to promote GMOs across the globe citing that GMOs are the solution to the world’s food problem. However, studies show that GMOs are the cause of many diseases.
While studies show the health benefits of full-fat dairy, the CSPI put a strong campaign against it. Now the CSPI is against the use of natural supplements and vitamins. Can you really trust this big consumer advocacy group?